Atlanta VA expands veterans services - CBS46 News

Atlanta VA expands veterans services

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

After years of criticism, the Atlanta Veterans Affairs medical system said it is making strides in improving medical and mental health services to veterans.

System leaders said it was troubling to hear about the shooting spree at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC, allegedly carried out by a man who once served in the military.

"We really want veterans who are out there who feel like they need help to come to the VA," said Dr. Mike Martin, a psychologist and clinical director with the VA. "This is a place where we are prepared to work with them, to help them readjust to society, to help them heal from the stresses of day to day life."

Martin said Atlanta VA hospitals have seen a 10 percent increase the number of patients using their services annually and they expect that trend to continue.

"First time I got my glasses here, it took me about a year just to get an appointment because it was so hard at the time," said Joann Cotton, an Army veteran who first went to the VA in 1994.

Cotton suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) after serving as a mortuary specialist who identified soldiers' bodies for more than a decade. 

"Oh my goodness, it's a 180-degree turnaround," said Cotton, referring to the care she has recently received.

Officials point to the recent expansion of the hospital at Ft. McPherson in southwest Atlanta that allows improved medical and mental health services.

"They are true heroes," said Dr. Reed Pitre, a psychiatrist at the facility. "They served their country and they deserve everything we can provide for them."

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